Haiti’s Parliament gets new quarters

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake continue to live in squalid tent camps. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Officials inaugurated a new building for Haiti’s Parliament yesterday, more than 15 months after an earthquake destroyed the national assembly’s headquarters.

The $700,000 prefabricated structure, built on the site of the destroyed assembly building, gives the 129 newly elected representatives a place to conduct business. Until yesterday the reps were using makeshift facilities as they coped with rebuilding the 20 percent of the country devastated in the January 2010 disaster.

During our recent visit to Haiti, photographer Bob Roller and I saw a team of construction workers hurrying to finish the building so that the new leaders would have a place to work. Reconstruction elsewhere lagged, however. Large mounds of debris and collapsed buildings were common throughout the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people remained in tent camps in parks, public land and vacant lots. People we talked with held out little hope of moving from the ragged settlements. Many rolled their eyes and smiled when asked about their choice of candidates in the election.

This morning pop singer Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly was confirmed as the winner of the March 20 presidential vote. He outpolled former first lady Mirlande Manigat by more than two-to-one as Haitians turned to his populist message out of frustration over the lack of progress in the rebuilding effort under outgoing President Rene Preval.

Martelly will be inaugurated May 14.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, said that $1.7 billion in contributions from countries around the world has been disbursed since March 31, 2010. The money represents 37 percent of the $4.6 billion pledged during a meeting at the U.N.

The commission reports that another $1.6 billion has been committed.

Those funds are in addition to the estimated $1 billion collected for humanitarian efforts by dozens of nongovernmental organizations since the quake.

The disaster claimed more than 300,000 lives.

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